Here's another update for Kathryn Stockett fans. (I keep thinking The Help may have lost some momentum—but then someone new will recommend it to me, not knowing that I've read it, or beg for a book suggestion because they just finished The Help and they loved it. No wonder Penguin's holding the paperback release until January 4, 2011. . . nearly two years after the hardcover's publication.)
Anyway, the news is that Octavia Spencer has been cast as Minny Jackson, Aibileen’s feisty best friend and Celia Foote's maid. According to Entertainment Weekly, Stockett and Spencer have known each other for "close to a decade" and the actress "served as the inspiration for the outspoken character." (She's also Minny's voice on the audio version of The Help.) Spencer has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows, but she's probably best known for her role as Constance Grady in "Ugly Betty."
I mentioned this briefly during Children's Reading Week, but I want you all to know that next Wednesday (May 26) we're launching a children's/teen e-newsletter called Reading Corner. I am really excited about this project because I love teen and middle grade novels (see here, here, here... here) and I think it will be a lot of fun to share our children's coverage with a group who especially appreciates books for young readers.
We're creating the newsletter for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, young readers and adults who love kid lit. Each issue will be filled with interviews, news and reviews of the best new books—and much of the content will appear in the newsletter before it's published on BookPage.com.
In the first edition, we're doing a mega-giveaway. You could win these five new novels (a couple of which I'd bet will be serious Newbery contenders). So, if you want a chance to win the books, sign up for the newsletter here.
As we approach the launch date, I'd love to hear any thoughts on what type of kids books you like to read about: picture books? dystopian teen novels? Feel free to leave a message in the comments section, and I hope you enjoy Reading Corner!
Another week, same cookbook: the Brombergs had so many to choose from. First Spicy Egg Shooters, now dessert. Read on for a sweet treat from two sibling chefs with a passion "for making whatever they make the best it can be." This one comes with a great story.
October 25, 1992. One week prior to opening Blue Ribbon, we place a call to Paris: “Bruno, help!”
The faint reply from the other side of the ocean: “Don’t worry, guys, I’ll be there. Besides, I could use a break.”
And with that, our mentor, Chef Bruno Hess from Le Recamier restaurant in Paris, was on his way to the rescue.
Bruno worked four nearly 24-hour days in a row, sleeping on the floor of the dining room while helping us get to opening day. Some break!
One of the nights during his stay we attacked the famed Fondant Chocolat, a dense chocolate mousse that was one of Bruno’s specialties in Paris. Due to the differences between American and French eggs and butter, we couldn’t get the recipe to work at all. We were incredibly frustrated; it was something we’d made hundreds of times before in France, so why wasn’t it coming out right in SoHo? By sunrise, and several hundreds of eggs later, we arrived at something completely different but perhaps even more delicious than the original. It could no longer be called Fondant Chocolat. Voilà, the birth of Chocolate Bruno.
5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2 ounces graham crackers (½ sleeve, or 4 full crackers), crushed (1 cup)
18 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons brewed espresso
8 large egg yolks
8 large egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for serving
Hot Fudge, for serving
Raspberries, for serving (optional)
1. Line the bottom of 6 (8-ounce) ramekins with parchment or wax paper. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water, melt the white chocolate; stir in the graham crackers. Divide equally among the prepared molds, using a spoon to spread evenly on each base.
Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
2. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water, melt the semisweet chocolate and butter with the espresso.
Let cool for 2 minutes. Stir in (do not whisk) the yolks until just incorporated.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the
whites until foamy. Slowly add the sugar and increase the speed. Beat until the
whites form soft, floppy peaks.
4. Fold a little bit of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Spoon the mousse into the molds and level the tops with an offset spatula or spoon. Chill until set, about 3 hours or overnight.
5. To serve, gently dip the bottoms of the ramekins in a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Run a spatula along the edges of each ramekin (outside the parchment paper) and pop out the mousse. Remove the paper. Transfer the desserts to plates and dust with cocoa powder. Serve with a drizzle of hot fudge and raspberries, if desired.
Note: Pregnant women, the elderly, and people who have compromised immune systems should exercise caution when consuming the raw eggs in this recipe.
Blue Ribbon Wisdom
Chocolate, White and Otherwise
White chocolate can be a pretty sketchy product if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Read the ingredients and check for cocoa butter, which is the only thing about white chocolate that’s related to chocolate at all! If it’s not made with real cocoa butter, chances are the manufacturer is substituting cheap hydrogenated vegetable oils instead—resulting in a product euphemistically called “white confectionary tablet.” You might be surprised that this recipe calls for semisweet rather than bittersweet chocolate. There’s a reason, of course. Calling for semisweet chocolate allows us to use less sugar when beating the eggs whites, which makes a looser, lighter meringue. This keeps the Bruno mousse-like and fluffy rather than dense.
Reprinted from Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Bruce Bromberg, Eric Bromberg, and Melissa Clark. Copyright (c) 2010. Photos (c) Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.
If these covers are any indication, we're going to be starting at the backs of a lot of people's heads this fall.
At least this brunette beauty is letting her locks flow free! Probably because she's an unconventional woman for her time, just like Cleopatra. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove (Crown, August) is the second novel from Susan Gregg Gilmore, and it's set in Nashville! We're looking forward to giving it a read.
No one does "wistful" like an Anita Shreve heroine, and this photograph evokes that emotion perfectly. It's possible that Shreve's novels kicked off this back-of-the-head trend; her last book, A Change in Altitude, featured this motif as well.
And last but not least, a debut novel about a ballerina, Russian Winter (Morrow, September). Her chignon is lovely, but the low back on her top (leotard?) combined with the backwards necklace is giving me an Exorcist flashback.
Have you noticed this trend? Do these covers spark your imagination, make you curious or set a mood? Or would you rather see a person's face on the cover of your book?
As many of you already know, Dewey Readmore Books was an orange tabby cat who lived in the Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa. When library director Myron told his story in Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, the book sold for a reported $1.25 million and became a #1 New York Times Bestseller.
The middle grade version, which came out a few weeks ago, tells Dewey's now familiar tale and includes some adorable pictures. For the youngest readers, there are also a couple picture books available (such as Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library!).
Adults who fell in love with Dewey will be happy to hear that Myron has a new book coming out on Oct. 12—Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions.
It's a no-brainer that readers love libraries, which Myron has called "the last great free enterprise in American society." What are your favorite books that are about libraries (or are love letters to libraries, as PW described Dewey back in 2008)?
Also, kid versions of adult books are nothing new—everyone from Glenn Beck (The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book) to Al Gore (Our Choice: How We Can Solve the Climate Crisis, Young Reader’s Edition) to Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea : One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time) seems to be doing it. Have parents/teachers/librarians found any such adaptation to be a notable hit with kids?
Want more info on Dewey? Read Myron's behind-the-book essay in BookPage.
Crazy Love: A Memoir by Leslie Morgan Steiner
St. Martin’s, March 30, 2010
Crazy Love is the story of Leslie’s love-gone-wrong with boyfriend—and then husband—Conor. At first Leslie and Conor seemed like the perfect couple—totally in love and excited to begin their lives together—but slowly Conor begins to abuse Leslie, subtly and verbally at first, brutally and physically later. Gradually and methodically, he isolates her from friends and family, leaving Leslie terrified that she might never escape from the man she loves.
It’s not an easy book to read, but I think it’s an important one. And even though the subject matter is violent and difficult, Steiner’s writing is fluid and lovely.
Here’s an excerpt from the middle of the book, days before Leslie and Conor’s wedding, and just a few hours after Conor pushed Leslie up against a wall, choked her and then threw her to the floor over a simple misunderstanding.
I pretended I didn’t hear the Volkswagen pull in around 6:00pm. He came into my office holding the car keys, head down. I could smell fear on him, panic that I was going to vilify him for what he’d done or announce I’d canceled the wedding.
The dread on Conor’s face offered a spider’s thread of hope. If he were afraid, he’d never attack me again, right? I could leave anytime. And anyway, he’d just grabbed my throat. He couldn’t have hit me. We were getting married.
Three days later, when my family and our wedding guests started arriving, the ten small reddish brown bruises around my neck were so faint no one noticed them.
Since today's Trailer Tuesday, it seems like a perfect time to write about the 2010 Moby Awards, which on Thursday will recognize the best and worst book trailers produced between April '09 and April '10.
A panel of judges will award prizes in the following categories: Best Big Budget Book Trailer; Best Low Budget Book Trailer; Best Cameo in a Book Trailer; Best Author Appearance in a Book Trailer; and Least Likely to Actually Sell the Book.
You can view the complete list of finalists (and watch the trailers) at this link. I don't think anyone will be surprised that two mash-ups from Quirk Books made the list—Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Dawn of the Dreadfuls (one of our first Trailer Tuesday selections) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The trailer for Lowboy by John Wray (a finalist for Best Cameo) had me cracking up at my desk. Check it out:
What's your favorite out of the Moby finalists? On Friday morning, I'll do a follow-up post on the winners.
This November, nearly 10 years after the release of dark horse bestseller (sorry) Seabiscuit, Random House is publishing Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken. It's the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who endured incredible hardships during World War II.
Hillenbrand came up with the idea during her research for Seabiscuit. As she says in the press release, "While studying a newspaper clipping about the racehorse, I happened to turn to the back of the page, where an article on Zamperini caught my eye. I began to read, and was immediately enthralled. I jotted Zamperini's name down in my Seabiscuit papers. After finishing my book, I wrote Louie a letter. He wrote back to tell me of his youthful days as a runner, holding the inspiring image of Seabiscuit in his mind as he ran. With every exchange, I was drawn more deeply into his story and its phenomenally abundant narrative possibilities." Unbroken was written with the full participation of Zamperini, who is now 93—though he told his own story with help of a co-writer in 2003's Devil at My Heels.
Having struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 25 years, Hillenbrand knows something about coping with adversity. Though she married her longtime fiancé in 2007, an NPR interview from October 2009 reports that "Her symptoms, including pain and vertigo, have been so severe that she's only left her house twice in the last two years." Book tours are out of the question and sometimes she is too ill even to write. Perhaps she identified with Zamperini for the same reason the Seabiscuit story spoke to her:
I identified in a very deep way with the individuals I was writing about because the theme that runs through this story is of extraordinary hardship and the will to overcome it. That is the fundamental struggle of my life, trying to get over this extremely devastating physical condition. There are times when I think, "I can't stand this any more." But you find a way to do it.
Are you influenced by blurbs? (Lynn is. . . on very rare occasions.)
At first glance, Gordon Grice's Deadly Kingdom: The Book of Dangerous Animals didn't sound like my cup of tea. But then I read David Sedaris's cover blurb—mostly because I thought it was strange for David Sedaris to be blurbing a book about dangerous animals:
“Did he say repugnatorial gland? What a wealth of information Gordon Grice is, and what a fine, beguiling writer. This book is a must for anyone even remotely thinking of getting a monkey, a sea lion, or, heaven forbid, a dog.”
By the way, I will definitely be picking up Deadly Kingdom after reading Grice's behind-the-book essay for BookPage. I love the part where he explains his unusual research: "I stuck my arm into the flensed skull of an alligator to see how it felt. I searched for the black bear my neighbor spotted on her morning jog. I read things in medical reports I'd rather forget, and I learned all over again how gorgeous even the humblest animals can be."
Deadly Kingdom is out this week—will you pick it up?
Growing up, the thought of a summer reading list either inspired giddiness or dread in my group of friends. As kids, we attended summer programs at the library and competed to see who could read the highest number of books. In high school, we procrastinated on assigned readings that either puzzled us (Heart of Darkness), gripped us (The Poisonwood Bible) or both (Beloved).
As summer approaches, I've started to think about my grown-up version of a reading list, especially as I prep to go on vacation in a couple of weeks. So far, all I know is that I want to balance the contemporary novels that usually occupy most of my time (first up: The Lonely Polygamist) with classics I can't believe I haven't read (ex: One Hundred Years of Solitude) and backlist titles from authors I've recently discovered (ex: Steve Yarbrough).
What's on your list for the summer? Any recommendations for Book Case readers?